I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses. I deal my own deck – sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces. Ah, wonderful songstery. One of those ones you can’t help joining in with on a night out. And as ever, popular culture has so much to teach us.

For the average solicitor, part of the joy of the job is to be creative, place your own mark on a problem or issue, and be the one who is responsible for a successful outcome. No two cases or transactions are the same, nor are any two clients. So independence of mind and creativity are top assets? Yes. And no.

There is no doubt that our job as lawyers is a bespoke one, and the idea of commoditisation of legal practice will be a Sisyphean struggle for those firms, banks and ABS companies who seek to create it. OK, to the outsider a conveyance is a conveyance, a will is a will, a divorce is a slam-dunk fair division. We know better.

But the merits are one thing. The means of production are another. Quite a few years ago I was talking to a very good solicitor who had looked at taking on some (then) cutting-edge IT and had decided not to go down the Windows/Word route, as he felt that the skillsets for employees and partners would erode, and doing things by copy and paste ran the risk of mistakes and inappropriate expression. He instead would stick to free-drafting every time.

That lasted about a year and he then came to understand that repetition is not the same as dumbing down, and running a law office at the end of the day has more of the manufacturing industry about it than you might think. The reality is that the quicker and cheaper you can get the job done, the more profitable it is.

The other thing to note is that no matter how eminent the solicitor, their priority is getting that job done and looking after the client’s interest, and, where the desk is piled high, getting on to the next job. Two aspects of this must be remembered. One is that it is easy to complete a task for a client but not remember or notice the bigger picture – working harder does not always mean working more profitably (as with Boxer the horse in Animal Farm: “I will work harder” ended up with him being carted away to the knacker); and acting for a client is more than meeting the immediate need – what about the holistic client care, the potential for further business, which takes time to deal with, time wasted if you don’t have a method of production that is efficient and uniform?

What it comes down to is this – a good firm, large or small, will have a system which minimises brain/typing/dictating/processing time, and the fee earners will adhere to it. Management will have a system for checking that staff at all levels both obey and, crucially, understand what to do and why. If you write a letter to another firm of lawyers, and then two weeks later need to write to them again, you should use your case management system to recreate the template and edit the content, to save you having to do all the typing again. Small example, but extrapolate for the year how much time can be saved or lost by the methodology of staff producing work. And the Lord save us from the secretary who thinks she will make life easier for herself or himself and just do it their own way instead of the firm’s way – or the solicitor who can’t remember the case management procedure because he or she was too busy to read the office procedure manual, and ends up wasting money and time by free-drafting an offer for a similar property as was dealt with last week.

Solicitors are traditionally wary of IT salesmen, and regard computers and kit as an expense. They’re not, they are an investment, and the right input of cash can bring about larger savings of other overheads, and an increase in efficiency and thus profit.

You need good IT and logistical systems, the will to enforce them, and an understanding on the part of all staff as to why they should abide by them. Once you have all that in place, creativity and profit follow seamlessly.